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Comment Re:Why was that viral gene inside in the first pla (Score 5, Insightful) 391

Quite, though I'm not convinced by the first link's suggestion that this could be a human health issue. As a scientist I've got to say it's not a great article, there's a rather obvious attempt to shoe horn a health scare into the analysis, to say nothing of smearing a regulatory body. (The latter in spite of a full public disclosure.)

As for the substance of the science. Yes, gene VI is toxic to plants but it's toxic when expressed inside a cell, so while it may be a danger to an infected plant it's got serious hurdles to leap before it gets expressed in a mammalian cell. I'd also note that while ribosomes are highly conserved, plant and mammalian ribosomes are not identical, so even if the protein was expressed in a human cell it's by no means certain to be functional. Moreover, it appears this isn't even the full length Gene VI, so it would by no means be functional even in plants.

At most there's a risk to the GM crop in the form of a reduced viral resistance, that's a threat to Monsanto's bottom line more than anything else.

On the whole I'm not impressed with the editorial commentary by Latham and Wilson, there's more than a whiff of axe grinding and self promotion. "Independent science news is clearly a misnomer". I hope they've written this letter to the journal in question, rather than jeering from the sidelines.

Comment Reading each other's code? (Score 2) 263

Lots of comments about being unable to read code authored by someone else (as usual), but who are these "professional perl coders"? I'd say I'm an intermediate perl programmer, and I've had no trouble reading my old code or anyone else's provided it's been written sensibly. Hell I've even been able to decipher some pretty Byzantine code when required.

Perl isn't a language without faults, for example OO is not fun in perl. However, it mystifies me to see perl criticised for readability when the coder is, in no small part, responsible for making something decipherable. I've seen shocking code in several languages, where I work I know there's a particularly hairy example of cold fusion we're still struggling to tame... Diabolical use of in-line HTML, thousands of lines of code without so much as an attempt at basic formatting (no indents) etc, etc. It was written by a genius I'm told, but why they deserve that title when they weren't smart enough to write something we could maintain I'll never know.

Comment Re:good (Score 1) 783

The trouble with evolution is that is it's so fundamental to the subject you can't avoid mentioning it at some point in a biology class. If you can't dodge the subject (which is counter productive anyway) then it has to be addressed factually. I don't see the problem here really, it's just reiterating what should happen anyway i.e. a lesson should accurately reflect it's subject matter. As an aside, ranking "what's more important" is terribly subjective, especially cross discipline. Where do you stop? Should we teach poetry? it's clearly less important etc. etc.

Comment Re:Not a "single gene" (Score 1) 243

Agreed, I'm definitely not a fan of calling miRNA genes (even in a genomic context). I've seen a few people refer to RNA genes or non-coding RNA genes, but the nomenclature is still somewhat in flux. Whatever the case, use of the word "gene" without a qualifier definitely implies a protein product IMPO, which is a bit sloppy.

Comment Not even close to accurate head line (Score 1) 243

The actual paper is here: It's talking about miRNA *not* genes, nor does the paper claim or support the notion this is the single defining difference between humans and apes. For those who don't know, not all of our RNA encodes cellular machinery. Some RNA molecules regulate whether other RNA molecules go on to make a functional protein, this paper is describing a class of regulatory RNA that may act on many hundreds of targets. (To quote from the Discussion: "birth of a novel miRNA might influence expression of hundreds of genes"). In this instance, some of the targets regulated by this new miRNA are neural so it appears to be a very significant finding. It's a very interesting paper, utterly over-egged by the headlines. I suspect a dodgy press release/over excited journalists.

Comment Re:Sewage (Score 1) 179

I'd like to add another question if I may:

7. How many areas of resource usage can be improved by genetic engineering?

We've barely got started on the best way to make biofuels, there are an awful lot of powerful tools at our disposal.

Comment Venter is fond of sensationalism (Score 1) 142

Here we go again, Venter is less of a scientist more of a salesman and self publicist. Take a vaguely interesting idea and throw in a good dose of hyperbole and voila instant headline. Mention Mars and recreating life from there and the news outlets slavishly snap it up no matter how stupid the idea is... Honestly, there's very little of interest to see here, not least because we're not even sure there's life to find and sequence yet. Tiresome.

Comment Re:Because GNOME is too stupid and KDE is too slow (Score 1) 818

Yeah I've noticed the KDE slow down too, I briefly switched from GNOME recently as I just couldn't deal with the GNOME 3 training wheels set up. Now I'm in a kind of desktop limbo, I'm warming to GNOME again for it's minimalist looks but slowly moving towards XFCE and LXDE as the more lightweight alternatives... Back to the topic in hand though, as stated above Linus most certainly isn't championing a switch from GNOME to another desktop.

Submission + - Biologists create synthetic DNA capable of EVOLUTION (

Norwell Bob writes: Synthetic DNA and RNA has been shown to be capable of evolving in the lab, carrying hereditary traits with it.

The synthetic form of DNA, life's building block, was able to share information with real DNA and undergo directed evolution into biologically useful forms.

Boffins are studying the fundamental question about DNA: where did it come from?

Many people are unenthusiastic about their work.